(From A Suggestion By MordMorgan)
Alexandra Mays was a wanderer. Like in the song of old, she roamed from town to town, never staying in one place for very long, never setting down roots. After finishing her first year of college, Alex as she liked to be called, came to the realization that she needed something more in her life than three more years of academia. So she packed up what there was of her personal possessions, tossed them in the van that her Uncle had bought her, and hit the road.
Her Uncle John had raised Alex after the death of her parents when she was seven. John Mays was a life long bachelor, ill prepared for the needs of a growing girl. Still, the master contractor did what he could, giving her all the love in his heart and teaching her all that he knew. By the time Alex had graduated high school, she had learned every aspect of her Uncle's business. Starting at the bottom of the ladder, she'd worked as a carpenter, a painter, a landscaper, plumber, and an electrician.
Two months before the end of that first year of college, John Mays suffered a heart attack. It had been the fifty-nine year olds third and had been followed a few weeks later by a fourth and final coronary. Alex lost any interest in school after that, deciding to hit the road for a while and find herself. Her inheritance from her Uncle's estate, coupled with what she made working as a Jill of all trades was enough for her to get by. There would be plenty of time to go back and get the education her Uncle wanted her to get, she told herself. That had been five years ago.
The sign off the county road had said the town was called Danversville. Named no doubt, the twenty-four year old brunette thought, after some long ago founding family. At first glance, it seemed no different than any of the half dozen towns she'd already visited this year. A sleepy Main Street with a pharmacy, movie theater, a small library and other assorted infrastructure. There was no particular reason why she picked this town to drive through. There never was. Life was more of an adventure that way.
Halfway down Main Street just before the Police Station and Courthouse that dominated the small town square, Alex spotted what she was looking for. Past experience had taught her that the local hardware store was usually the best place to get a line on any possible jobs in the area. Sure enough, there was a large cork bulletin board near the counter, upon which were a small number of help wanted notes.
Alex moved up to the counter where the clerk was busy doing her nails. It took her a few tries to get the bleached blonde's attention. She finally looked up from the magazine she was reading at the same time and asked if she could help the brunette.
"I was wondering if you knew of any contractor jobs in the area?" Alex said with a smile as she leaned over and took note of the magazine the girl had been reading. She wasn't surprised to find it was the usual tabloid trash.
"Contractor jobs?" the girl in the low cut sundress repeated.
"You know, electrical work, carpentry, painting, that sort of thing." Alex went on to explain.
"Well I don't know," she said as she looked over Alex, her face making no secret of her disapproval of Alex's short haircut and unisex dress.
The older girl just shrugged it off. When you spent as much time traveling as she did, you learned to dress as comfortably as possible.
"You have to look and see what's up on the board. I think that Mike ... I mean Mr. Zalman put up something new there yesterday. Not sure what it was about, but I think I saw old lady Crawford's name on it. She bought the old Gallagher place last year and that always needs some kind of work done on it."
"Thanks, you've been a big help." Alex said with a touch of sarcasm as she turned her attention to the board. She was sure it was lost on the girl who was already back at her magazine.
With only a half dozen notices, Alex quickly found the one in question. She had just finished reading it when she felt someone approach behind her. She turned to find a slightly overweight man in his late forties standing behind her.
"Hello, I'm Mitchell Zalman." he said as he also took stock of the young woman. "My wife and I own this store. Wendy, that's our cashier over there, said that you were interested in any contractor work hereabouts."
"That's right." Alex said, all too aware of his eyes on her breasts. "She said something about a Ms. Crawford need some help."
"Don't get many women in these parts doing that sort of work." Mr. Zalman said, trying to get a better look down her blouse.
"Well I'm not exactly from these parts, Mr. Zalman." Alex said as she reached back and pulled the notice off the wall. "And trust me, there are few contracting jobs that I can't handle."
She went on to list a few of her qualifications and references. The store owner couldn't help but be impressed.
"Please call me Mike," he said with a friendly smile. "Everyone does. I can't really tell you what the job would cover. Marilyn Crawford is a pretty private person. Way I reckon, she really wasn't too happy about posting the ad to begin with."
Noting that there wasn't any number or address on the notice, Alex asked if Mr. Zalman had the information. A little reluctantly, he pulled a small piece of paper from out of his wallet. Ms. Crawford had asked him to give it to any qualified respondents.
Holding the address and phone with the original ad, Alex asked for directions to the old Gallagher place. She thanked the hardware man, and started to leave. Alex was almost out the door when Mike called out after her.
"If you don't get the job, you just come back and see old Mike here." he said. "I'm sure I could find a place for someone of your skills."
Alex smiled and again thanked Mr. Zalman. From the furious glances from the helpful girl behind the counter, she could imagine the kind of skills Mike Zalman looked for in the hired help. She imagined that Mrs. Zalman didn't come down to the store much.
Climbing back into her ten-year-old land rover, Alex smiled at the little episode back in the store. The twenty four year old was used to being the object of attention of both men and women. She stood just a shade under five six and her chosen profession the last half-decade had left her with a trim, muscular build. Coupled with her short sun-streaked brown hair, it produced a striking look.
As she drove through town, following the directions she'd been given, Alex wondered what this prospective job might entail. Also what her prospective employer might be like as well. From what had been painted so far by Mike and Wendy, Ms. Crawford was undoubtedly some eccentric little old lady who valued her privacy. Every town seemed to have at least one. Living in an old house, she must have at least a half dozen little jobs that needed doing. At least Alex hoped so.
Turning down the street, she spotted the house at the end of the block. It reminded her of a similar one she'd worked on a few years back. That had belonged to a married couple in their sixties. Nice people she remembered, she had worked for them for almost a month.
When she pulled up front, Alex saw that the house was larger than it had first appeared. Larger, and a lot older. If she had to guess, she would put it as early 1900's. One thing did seem out of place on the Victorian era house were the two satellite dishes mounted on the roof. There also seemed to be some additional power lines run into the second floor as well.
"I guess some people just can't live without their HBO." Alex mused as she started up the long walk.
She pressed the doorbell and waited. After getting no response, she tried the old doorknocker instead. It made a loud booming sound.
"Guess the doorbell is one of the things that needs fixing." she thought as she waited.
A few moments later, the sound of footsteps behind the door became loud enough to hear.
When the door swung open, Alex found that her assumptions about Ms. Crawford were way off the mark. Assuming of course that this was the owner of the house standing in the doorway. A full figured woman who stood half a head taller than Alex, she had a bust that drew immediate attention. Raven black hair with just a trace of gray streamed down her back. Alex would put her age in her mid thirties but would later be surprised that Ms. Crawford was two months shy of forty-three. Even in the plain sweatsuit she was wearing, the woman exuded a sense of poise and elegance.
"Good morning," the older woman said with a smile that if anything, made her seem even younger. "Can I help you?"
"I think that was supposed to be my line," Alex replied with an equally warm smile. "My name is Alex Mays and I'm here about the ad you posted in the hardware store."
"Well that was quick," she said as her face seemed to beam even brighter. "Please come in. I'll have to ask you to excuse the mess, I really wasn't expecting anyone today. No, that's really not true, the house would probably be just as messy if I knew you were coming. I'm Marilyn Crawford, by the way, but I'm sure you've already figured that out for yourself."
As Alex followed Marilyn into a large cluttered living room, she had to admit their introduction had gone pretty well. No comments about how surprising it was to have a young woman applying for the position. More often than not, Alex spent much of an introduction just convincing people that she was serious.
Marilyn cleared some of the books piled on the sofa so that she and Alex could sit down.
.... There is more of this story ...